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Apple CEO Tim Cook On iPhone Addiction, Antitrust, Trade War And Trump

Cook speaks about some of the biggest issues facing Apple at the moment, as well as the company's major news from this week's WWDC developer conference.

Tech giant Apple has found itself at the center of some of the biggest debates of 2019, from user privacy to smartphone addiction to the size of major tech companies.

Apple also faces the potential threat of being pulled into a major international conflict—President Donald Trump's trade war with China.

[Related: Apple's 9 Biggest Reveals At WWDC 2019]

Meanwhile, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has been making plenty of news of its own, with a number of announcements this week at its WWDC developer conference. Those included the imminent phase-out of iTunes and that Apple is aiming to replace sign-on technologies from Google and Facebook with its own, privacy-focused method.

Apple CEO Tim Cook addressed all of these topics in an interview with CBS News this week—perhaps most strongly responding to the possibility of a U.S. Justice Department antitrust investigation of Apple.

"We don't have a dominant position in any market," Cook said. "We are not a monopoly."

What follows is a selection of Cook's comments from the interview.

Privacy

I think it's one of the most important issues of the century. We see privacy as a fundamental human right. We're very worried that the place that we're all in right now is a place that has dire consequences. You can see some of those that have played out over the last several years. And the awareness is building.

We want to give tools to users to protect their privacy. I mean there is extraordinary amounts of detailed information about people that I don't think should really exist that are out there today.

‘Sign in with Apple’

We're not really taking a shot at anybody. We focus on the user. And the user wants the ability to go across numerous properties on the web, without being under surveillance. We're moving privacy protections forward. And I actually think it's a very reasonable request for people to make.

Does Cook Think Facebook Cares About Privacy?

I think that everybody is beginning to care more. People are becoming more aware of what's been happening. Many people are getting more offended. I think this is good, because we need to shine a light on it. You can imagine an environment where everyone begins to think there's no privacy. And if there's no privacy, your freedom of expression just plummets. Because now you're going to be thinking that everybody's going to know every single thing you're doing. This is not good for our country not good for democracy.

Privacy Legislation In Congress

They haven't [acted]. I'm hoping that they do. We're actively pushing and giving suggestions and so forth. We're going to continue to do that. I think the country needs to move forward here.

You have a right [to know how your data is being used] and you have a right to stop it, in my mind. And you have a right to change it, a right to delete it. You don't [have the ability to do that] today. There's so many companies out there that have your data that you've never even heard of.

We're not waiting for the government to act. We're pushing forward, and I hope that everyone that wants to not be surveilled across the internet, I hope they use our sign-on.

End Of iTunes

We're not really shutting it down. Most people associate iTunes with the ability to purchase music at the song level. We're still doing that. What we're doing is we've recognized that there've been so many things put into iTunes, from music to podcasts to video and all the rest, that we need to separate these things out so it's clear where you go for what.

iPhone Addiction

I hope everyone dials back, if they want to. I haven't seen evidence [of shortened attention spans]. But users have started telling us, "Hey, my kids are using it too much." But we also learned something else—that parents are also spending too much time. And so the Screen Time [feature] is really focused on both kids and parents. Because all of us, if we know what we're doing, we can make changes that we want to make.

Is Apple Too Big?

No, I don't think so. But with size, I think scrutiny is fair. I think we should be scrutinized. But if you look at any kind of measure about, is Apple a monopoly or not, I don't think anybody reasonable is going to come the conclusion that Apple is a monopoly. Our share is much more modest. We don't have a dominant position in any market. We are not a monopoly.

Fake News

We're on the user's side in trying to prevent fake news. And so we curate, and we've always done that. We're not an amplifier for fake news or pitting groups against one another or having porn or all this other kind of stuff. This is not what we're about, and we've never been about that. …

I don't really believe personally that AI has the power today to differentiate between what is fake and what is not. And so I worry about any property that today pushes news in a feed. And so what we do with our news product, we're not creating news, but we do pick top stories [and] we have people doing it. And so I do worry about people thinking like machines, not machines thinking like people.

Is Cook Worried About The Next Presidential Election?

The answer is, I worry that the fake news is not under control. And I do worry about, you know, outside forces using it to manipulate people's thoughts and so forth. So yes, I think we should all be concerned.

Impact On Apple From The Trade War With China

Currently the Chinese have not targeted Apple at all. And I don't anticipate that happening, to be honest. … I don't anticipate [a tariff on iPhone]. I know people think the iPhone is made in China—the iPhone is assembled in China. The truth is, the iPhone is made everywhere. It's made everywhere. So, a tariff on the iPhone would hurt all of those countries. But the one that would be hurt the most is this one.

Relationship With President Trump

I think we've had very straightforward discussions, many of them. He listens to the comments, which I appreciate. Sometimes he doesn't agree. But my philosophy on things is that you always engage. Even when you know that you're going to wind up on very opposite sides. Because the only way that you change somebody's mind is if you talk. Now that said, I have a very different view on DACA and other immigration issues, on climate change and a set of others. But this doesn't prevent me from weighing in on other things that there might be commonality on. I'm proud to [engage with the White House].

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